Overview: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), as well as various state and local laws, prevent employee discrimination against employees and applicants with disabilities. Under federal law, a qualified individual with a disability is defined as an individual who, with or without reasonable accommodation, can perform the essential functions of the job. A disability can be (1) a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits one or more major life activities; (2) a record of such an impairment; or (3) being regarded as having such an impairment. This definition can vary from state to state.
Since the ADA was amended in 2008 - through the ADA Amendments Act (ADAAA) - it is easier to prove that an individual is disabled under federal law. Therefore, employers should aim to establish policies and practices that prohibit disability discrimination and focus on the interactive process. Employers should be careful regarding preemployment inquiries and employment decisions that violate the ADA. Employers should also understand that they are legally obligated to provide reasonable accommodations to employees and applicants with disabilities unless an employer can show that it would suffer an undue hardship.
Trends: Because the passage of the ADAAA significantly expanded the definition of disability, many individuals who were not considered disabled under the law, are now protected. For example, individuals with who are obese, who suffer from allergic reactions to fragrances, who suffer from post-partum depression and even individuals with a fear of heights have been able to prove that they meet the definition of disabled under the law. Employers should know that the current use of illegal drugs such as marijuana even if used for medical purposes is still not protected under the ADA. However, some state laws may provide users of medical marijuana with greater protection. As such, employers should be aware of all state and local laws with regard to disability.
Further, employers should be aware that the US Department of Justice (DOJ) recently released guidance regarding individuals with or perceived to have AIDS/HIV. The guidance explains that individuals who are HIV-positive or carrying AIDS are covered by the ADA regardless of if they are showing symptoms of the disease. It also provides examples of reasonable accommodations employers can offer.
Melissa Burdorf, J.D., Legal Editor
On May 15, 2013, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) updated its questions and answers series regarding workplace rights and the prevention of discrimination against individuals with specific disabilities.
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The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is scheduled to hold a public meeting on Wednesday, May 8, at 9:00 am (EST), to discuss how employee wellness programs should be handled under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and other laws enforced by the EEOC. The employer community has long been waiting for EEOC guidance in this area and this meeting will bring them one step closer.
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In a wide-ranging XpertHR podcast, EEOC General Counsel David Lopez discusses a host of key employment law issues, including notable litigation trends affecting the Commission. Lopez also talks about the biggest mistakes he sees employers making.
In a new XpertHR podcast, EEOC General Counsel David Lopez said the Commission continues to see "very egregious cases of racial harassment." He also addressed notable litigation trends involving national origin discrimination plus the litigation rise involving mental disability issues.
When an employee announces her pregnancy, a prudent employer should proceed cautiously because a bumpy road lies ahead as legislators and policymakers at the state and federal level push for greater protection for pregnant employees. In fact, some states have already passed legislation that goes beyond federal requirements
A district court in Pennsylvania held that an employer may require probationary employees in safety sensitive positions to undergo random alcohol testing without violating the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) if it can show that there is a clear business justification and medical necessity. In doing so, the court dismissed a claim filed by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) on behalf of an employee who was terminated when she obtained a false positive test result due to her diabetes medication. See Equal Employment Opportunity Commission v. United Steel, 2013 U.S. Dist. Lexis 22748 (W.D. Pa. 2013).
In-depth review of the spectrum of Kansas employment law requirements HR must follow with respect to disability-related leave.
XpertHR's Transportation Resource Center for HR: Discrimination and Harassment helps transportation industry employers handle their most vexing employment issues by bringing relevant resources together in one place for easy access.
HR guidance on disability discrimination and ensuring that employees and applicants with disabilities receive fair treatment.
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